What is “Social” and why do I care?

Driven by the belief that knowledge is power and sharing is powerful, I dedicate my work to creating better understanding of the social tools that enable sharing of knowledge both in organizations and their stakeholders. The global benefit will be a greater use of knowledge resources to stimulate development and more effective and sustainable growth. Social begins with people.

The tools available today from new media to global networks and their events provide us with the ability to have far greater reach and impact with our social interactions. Handled wisely with strategic forethought, each one of us has the power to be a change-maker. With the right social strategy each organization has the power to make the world a better place, while improving their bottom line.

Social tools are not limited to new media or social media. They are the social interactions we have face to face that we support through online interactions. They are the communities we choose to support and participate it. They are the relationships that we develop and nurture over time that define us and the people that we interact with. They are the opportunities to interact with like minded people. When we understand how to use them more wisely.

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Social Optimization as part of Social Business Strategy

This presentation is a summary of slides from a three part class on social media strategy. It was designed for the particular audience, which was business school students and entrepreneurs. The last slide provides a basic exercise for getting started on building a stronger foundation for your social strategy. I am revising the second two parts (Social Media & Implementation) for a more general audience to upload shortly. The class name has since been updated to “Social Business Strategy.” Please feel free to contact me should you be interested in learning more about this class and supporting materials.

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From "Why Social Security?" (1937)

What is Social Strategy?

From "Why Social Security?" (1937)
After a week of teaching and presenting corporate workshops on Social Strategy, I am struck by the fresh untainted perspective of the university students and the entrepreneurs and the resistant fear of the larger corporate clients. I sift through from my favorite tweets and blogs, a few searches based on kernels and new thoughts. I allow myself to get “sucked in” in the name of research. I keep fighting with the semantics in my search. It must go beyond social media as a marketing tool, enterprise 2.0 as internal communications systems, and social enterprise CSR for directing public opinion. To be truly effective social strategy, it must include all these elements. I follow “social media optimization” (and “optimization”), “social strategy”, “social business”, “enterprise 2.0”, “knowledge sharing”, “knowledge management”, and more.

Thanks to Beth Kanter’s tweet I’m lead to, Antisocial: Why Corporate America Keeps Rejecting Social Media” by Geoff Livingston of CRT/Tanaka. Geoff talks about the five barriers: Control, Authenticity, Self-Promotion, Shiny Object Syndrome and Personal Brand Conundrums. I might add anti-social Corporate Culture (lack of trust) and not shared Vision to his list. All of these issues are easier to teach a student or easier to adapt for entrepreneurs, therefore giving them a clear edge. The follow up article was equally interesting: Top Five Organizational Silos” identified: CxO Suite, PR/Public Affairs, IT, Sales and Marketing /Donor Development, and Legal. With start ups these roles are already shared, so they find it easier to avoid (ie. The solos are not constructed in cement yet). I was finally getting to the content and conversations I wanted to hear more.

Social Business Design by Gurav Mishra of 20/20 Social

I come from a background in knowledge management (corporate) and learning management (education) where they are essentially same thing, just different names. I knew I had to dig deeper changing my semantics yet again to get what I wanted. So I hit it and was pleased to see others with the same evolution of thoughts. It is “Social Business Strategy.” Guarav Mishra of 20/20 Social phrased it very well in his article titled appropriately, “From Social Media Marketing to Social Business Strategy”. When working with companies on their social strategy, it often gets relegated to the Communications or Marketing departments otherwise thought of as “soft” side of business. It is a strategic decision to be social, and must be treated as part of the objectives of the organization. Social business strategy must be adopted organization wide if it is to be effective. It is not just about refining the communications and using new tools. It is a change in culture and how we do business both inside and outside our organizations. Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Groupdoes a nice job bullet pointing the areas of impact for social strategy in“Companies Must Plan Holistically For Social –Beyond Marketing

Of course, we come to the area that we all love, the return on investment, the impact on business performance and the future. Oliver Marks of ZDNet presents the issue of cultural adaptation to the collaborative model in his post on How To Sell Collaborative Business Performance Internally”. He stresses the importance of leadership and vision in creating success in his post “Social Business in Action – Establishing Excellence”. Identifying and the champions and ambassadors that will make the social change happen are important to recognize and treat as such. The vision that is expressed from the leadership should be clear, concise and something that the entire community can embrace. Entrepreneurs and students are social in nature, as a matter of survival. They often need the assistance in refining their goals and objectives so that they too can communicate their vision.

At least now I know what I need to call it, concise and clear: Social Business Strategy. Who else is working from this angle that we should follow?

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Writing for a global audience, hello “z”

I finally give in. As a serial expat, my American language has become influenced by British and European English resulting in my spelling going to pot. Working with Social Optimization does not help given its blatant exposure of my weakness. So, I give in. I will use (or at least try) to return to my American roots and spell with the “z” of my childhood. I must admit I am attached to the the softness of the s in “optimisation” so it will be with regret. I have received sufficient flack from both family/friends and readers now that I must decide. On top of it all is the fact that in order to optimise for search engines, I must use the more common spelling. So forgive me if I slip up every now and again. From now on you can find my work under social optimiZation. But fear not, I will not become a ForbeZ.

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Keeping Social and Keeping Up

I am reminded by my colleague as we sit and work on the book about “Social Optimisation” that the biggest struggle that we all share is too few hours in the day. Trying to keep up with blogs and tweets, curriculum development for classes, presentations to tweek to specific audiences and deliverables for consulting clients becomes a bit of a balancing act (pun intended), not to mention having a life and keeping healthy (which by the way is not optional, its required in the social optimisation equation). Yes, even those who work with balance can become off-balance. But this only fuels my fire, so to speak. The more effective the tools, the easier to take the best of what there is to reuse where applicable and apply where needed. The beautiful thing about social is that we all use it in most of the areas of our work. It is about people communicating with people. The message and the methods may change, but the base principals are the same.

I have decided to try some different tools that might make the message simpler and cleaner, video. So keep posted, for video blogging to come. (Of course, the drilling above my office might make this a challenge, I will do my best.) Tomorrow begins “Q-Day” that leads up to “Innovation in Mind”. So, I will be blogging and “V-blogging” during the day and we will see if this works well.

Stay tuned….

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Social Media for Non-Profit Organisations and Networks

“Where do we start,” is the common question I get at workshops on social media for global networks. The struggle that many have is partially based on a technology gap, partially quick turnover of volunteer boards, and often too much fear of getting out of the comfort zone. This leaves much room for knowledge to be lost and information to get caught in transitions and never shared. In my workshop on PR tools at the BPW Europe Congress yesterday, the discussion was quickly diverted to what are the tools for, how to use them effectively, as they were all perceived as channels. The beautiful thing about the way things are evolving, social media tools are, in general, user friendly and free (non-profits love this). So here is one way to simplify the recommendation:

Firstly, with each of these tools there must be an account that is shared by the club to access and a record of which tools are being used. This will simplify the archive and tracing process during handover of new boards. This can be done by creating a free gmail account which forwards to those currently responsible.

Second we select the content to be shared. This does not always have to be created, as it may have already been created by others (interviews, photos from events, in the press, links to products, services, articles, blog posts,…). Write your commentary and questions in text format and save for insertion.

Third we send these through translation tools that will host the dynamic content and provide an embed code or link to it to insert when you broadcast.
Here are some examples of translate tools that I have found effective:

  • Links: http://bit.ly Shorten urls so that they are easier to share.
  • Presentations: slideshare.com Converts Powerpoint presentations and images and hosts them, providing a, embed code
  • Documents: Adobe Acrobat, from Word download the conversion tool to make any doc a pdf
  • Video and Music: YouTube.com Upload video to host on YouTube, can use the direct link or create an embed code
  • Pictures: picasa.google.com Upload your images and create an album to share via link or embed

Fourth step is to take ownership of these tools and provide them context. You can do this through creating a press release uses the links and embeds to enrich the content. This can be broadcast through onlineprnews.com which with the free version will broadcast and the fee based will optimise it for search engines (determine which is best based on the importance of the reach and accuracy in targeting required for the particular message). Maintain a blog that can be linked to your homepage where your editorial, and content can be compiled and broadcast. Both Blogger and WordPress are free and easy to set up and use.

In between these lies the infamous twitter. Do not use your personal twitter, keep a separate account for the organisation for relevant, contextual only tweets. They can be managed separately using tools like tweetdeck. Tweetdeck will also enable you to shorten urls within it, so that you can share individually elements of the content (from content host links, above) or the full summary (press release or blog). This is important as you are limited to the 140 characters. You can also embed the twitter profile and tweets in a sidebar of the blog or website by using a badge. If you are new to twitter, keep in mind to stick with format of headline and link only. To avoid “ego” only tweets, refer to other links in context outside of organisation.

Next you have the channels which here is just to name a few. The key is to understand where your audience is interacting and have a presence there, whether it be in the form of a group, a fan page, a separate community or site. Here are some of the ones that I use and their different purposes:

  • SOCIAL: Facebook is a great tool for social interactions that have extended and local reach. Just remember that the interaction is social, not professional, so unless it is of personal interest to the audience, it is not appropriate. As an organisation you can create a Fan Page that Facebook members can join to hear news, give feedback and share their appreciation of with their friends.(note: rule of thumb for connecting on Facebook, only do so if it is someone that you would ask how their family is, not just as a conversation starter, but because of genuine interest).
  • PROFESSIONAL: LinkedIn is the best tool for professional referal and reputation management. Create a group to where you can have interactive dialog, update when there is new content or news of note or interest to others. (note: rule of thumb for linking on LinkedIn, only do so if you have an interaction or experience to base a referral on to ensure the integrity of your network. When you refuse, do so politely leaving the door open for when you have that interaction or experience).
  • ~Xing is a hybrid of the social and professional that also encourages local communities to create face to face events. Most active in German speaking countries but does have global coverage.
  • Homepage: Provide a space to announce your presence and link to them on your homepage so that your readers know to look for you there. Also be sure to provide the opportunity for your readers to share content via both RSS and tools they are using (try adding ShareThis). If you already have a community or blog, make sure to integrate the new content regularly).
  • INTEREST: Ning is a free online community building tool that can be used for both professional and social purposes, depending on your need.

Lastly, but very importantly, once you get to your audience, you need to remember that it does not stop there. To be truly effective, monitor and measure who your reader is and their behavior. Google has two great tools for the monitoring (Google Alerts) and measurement (Google Analytics): I am currently evaluating some of the more indepth tools that are coming out onto the market for measurement. This is a critical step to understanding our effectiveness and continuing improvement. You can always ask them directly if you know your audience or embed a survey in one of your communications via SurveyMonkey.

As we all know these tools are constantly evolving and new ones come to market daily. The recommendations made in this posting are simply what I am using today. I welcome your thoughts on others to try.

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Why We Engage

In trying to understand better just why and how social media is better at engaging us as individual users, I have been looking into several different theories often applied to education technology. So here is a first shot and please feel free to put in your two cents, as this is just the start of what will be far more extensive research.

Engagement theory (Kearsley & Schneiderman, 1999) uses the base structure of Relate, Create Donate, assuming we are talking about engaging both the teacher and the student. As participants in user based media we are both the teacher (sender) and the student (receiver). We therefore all benefit and become more engaged based on participation as we contribute to of all the three areas (Relate, Create, Donate). Perhaps it is more cyclical in the open collaborative model version of how we interact online today. Instead of creating one final product of research, it is ongoing and dynamic. So we are engaged, but how do we stay there?

So, now let’s look at the psychoanalytical perspective to understand Social Representation (Serge Moscovici in 1961), a “system of values, ideas and practices with a twofold function; first, to establish an order which will enable individuals to orientate themselves in their material and social world and to master it; and secondly to enable communication to take place among the members of a community by providing them with a code for social exchange and a code for naming and classifying unambiguously the various aspects of their world and their individual and group history”. Here we must have rules established in order to engage as the interaction is based on TRUST. It is generally agreed that we must have this trust in order for user based tools to be successful.

Outside of the academic sphere and into the multifaceted global realm, we have new rules and codes that are being created. The rules are evolving and are being created collaboratively. With each new evolution of the tools we use the codes of interaction evolve. And yet, the sharing and learning continues. Are we engaging simply for the sake of curiosity, the need to learn and to share? Even Wikipedia struggles to find a general collaboration theory that explains it. What we do know is that it is happening and users are engaging. In the quest of understanding effectively interaction for maximum benefit for both the receiver and the sender, I put this out there as a seed for discussion. What are your experiences with engagement and how do you feel that the rules have changed to make it more effective?

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Social Media ABCs for Dinosaurs

Okay, so perhaps we do not need to go to the extreme of calling them or us dinosaurs. In fact, many clients referring to themselves as “dinosaurs” are not so old. They simply have a comfort level with the tools they are familiar with: paper calendars, email and newspapers. They may have adapted to the online version of their newspaper, and even do research using search engines. They might even order a book or two online. Their reference to dinosaurs being unfounded, for what they need is not savvy but comfort. So what is more comfortable than going back to being reminded that the base rules lie in what we already know, the ABCs:

A Authenticity
B Be Present where your intended audience is
C Consistancy encourages following
D Dynamic content is more engaging
E Edit entries before submitting
F Filter, you do not need to see everything
G Global reach, there is a big world out there
H Help others who are in need of answers
I Ideas, test them
J Just what you need, be selective about where and when to avoid “overindulgence”
K Knowledge is for sharing
L Link to that which adds mutual value
M Monitor what is being said about you (your brand)
N Networking, start with the ones you already have (face to face) and go from there
O Objectives, be clear on what you hope to achieve
P Policy, know what you want kept private and when
Q Questions, ask them
R Reputation, maintain yours with integrity
S Share
T Tools, use ones that simplify and automate where applicable
U User, all users ultimately are individuals
V Video, use it if you have it
W Watch your statistics
X Xenophobia, be wary of your own fear of the unknown, be open
Y You are a multidimensional being/organisation, expressing this is an asset
Z Zenith, you can achieve your maximum potential through more effective interactions

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Get Social

During the Summer I had both the traumatic and delightful experience of being offline for nearly five weeks. Usually connected to the Internet every waking minute, I experienced what felt close to withdrawal when both my computer and Smartphone broke. Given my location being very remote, I took this as an opportunity to organise my thoughts and do the other part of social optimisation.

Yes, I got social face to face. I interviewed others on their professional and personal experiences with online social media and face to face social networks. I listened, reflected and responded. The beauty of faces and their expressiveness when they spoke with passion was profound. Having the unusual opportunity to being among a hugely diverse community in fields, levels, interests, ages, expertise and technical savvy was the perfect setting for testing theories on social optimisation and building relationships.

Amy Domini, CEO of Domini Social Investments (pictured above, as we headed out for a sail), said it well, there is no better way to get to the heart of things. With salt water splashing in your face and the sun beaming down, laughter and genuine experience is shared amidst conversations saving the problems of the world and sharing knowledge.

So, now I am back at the office with a repaired computer and replacement mobile phone. With weeks of mail to catch up on and meetings and trainings to prepare for, there is not much social for the next bit. I thank those who shared such wonderful social moments. I hope that others have had similar experiences, if not you should try and please share your insights. I am glad for the reminder of the power of the face to face connection of really being social.

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7 Key Rules of Social Optimisation

These “rules of engagement” apply to Social Optimisation both online and off. Maximise your impact while minimising effort through following them.

  1. BE AUTHENTIC: You can only be what or who you are. This is dynamic and changing as well as multidimensional. Represent that clearly and with both pride in success and humility in failures. It is much easier and will be respected. Deception will only come back to bite you.
  2. DEFINE GOALS: Understanding what you hope to gain from a relationship minimises time spent on relationships with no gain, and often drain. Have a strategy and understand both what you have to offer as well as what you need. Unhealthy relationships as well as those connections that just create added noise without relevance most likely should be removed to make room for accomplishing goals.
  3. LISTEN: There is much to be learned by listening, we gain insight into others, their needs, their feedback, the knowledge and their experience. Understand who they are and learn their story, this creates depth in relationships.
  4. SHARE: Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but without sharing it is worthless. Share what you know with others and build. Connect peers that have mutual needs or potential synergies.
  5. BE PRESENT: Isolation is not social. Learn where your peers, or audience are and participate in the conversation.
  6. BE POSITIVE: Solutions never come from whining or shooting the messenger. If you see opportunity for improvement suggest it. When you come across something you like, provide praise.
  7. BE CURRENT: Update your peers on your status, on things that are relevant and keep current with the tools which will always be evolving.

These are the foundation steps. They are meant to be generalised to accomodate both online and offline as well as individual and organisation scenarios. I welcome your thoughts on these “rules of engagement”.

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